Sunday, January 4, 2015

Death Becomes Her: Victorian Mourning Exhibit

Saw the Victorian Mourning Exhibit at the Met last week. The exhibit was great, but smaller than past fashion exhibits. Really great selection of artifacts though, including a dress worn by Queen Victoria. Stark white walls and curtains showed off the dresses nicely. Sad period-appropriate music also played. I took photos of some of the captions. In this post, the captions are below the thing they are describing.

The above was probably my favorite. I love the black stone jewelry and the corset top that is fitted and loose at the same time. As you can read in the description, decorative tucks everywhere as mourning attire becomes fashionable.



I was excited to see some jet (a soft coal rock) jewelry...having done a post on this pretty recently.

British necklace 1860. Jet, metal
British necklace 1860. Jet, metal

late 19th century mourning necklace and locket. Onyx, gold, seed pearl, hair



No Victorian mourning exhibit would be complete without hair brooches. There were a few lovely examples. I love the way the hairs were woven. I've seen Victorian mourning jewelry where the hair is just a lock...nothing decorative at all. It's much more morbid than these beautiful weaves. I especially like the Tiffany's one. 
Brooch, 1850, hair, jet, pearl, gold, crystal. Engraved on underside: Chas T. Evans/Obt. at sea, /Sept, 20, 1852,/AE 29 yrs. 

Tiffany & Co. Brooch 1868: gold, black enamel, pearls, hair. Also engraved with person's name on underside, but didn't catch it on the description.  
left: mourning locket 1859: glass, gold, hair engraved on back: In memory of 17 May 1859.
Right: Mourning brooch, 1874: diamond, agate, hair (could not see the hair...stared at this forever)
Brooch with portrait of girl, 1860, watercolor on ivory, gold, mother of pearl, glass














Here's Queen Victoria in an evening dress worn by her in 1894-5. I was surprised at how short she was. She had to have been about my height. 5 feet tall. I'm standing next to her in the second picture. I was also surprised at how--no offense implied, Your Majesty--big she was. Two of me would fit in her dress. 










the gold fringe was similar to the doily fringe patterns of the time.
(omg the ligatures in the captions drove me nuts.)




"mourning attire could disguise a lack of genuine grief"--probably why we don't wear everyday mourning attire today.



The Moire fabric dresses were interesting. I didn't realize this fabric was around so long.





love the collar and the moire fabric.


armwarmers?




Here is a brief note about men's mourning fashion:
The exhibit had a gift shop that was kind of lacking. They had lovely jewelry that was crazy expensive (shown below) but no exhibition book. I was really disappointed, since I was hoping to get a catalog or book. Lately the exhibitions have had books...


Outfit shot in the Met bathroom:

What was your favorite?

15 comments:

  1. Omg I love the sparkly dresses. Mourning attire has always fascinated me, especially the jewelry which I once saw a short documentary about. It's too bad we aren't as invested in the mourning process today, it seems we're all too ready to brush it off and get back to routine living (even work expects you back in three days). When my friend passed during my exams I felt like I was drowning. I don't think I had the opportunity to fully grieve the loss.

    I once read an article in my undergrad about what people did with pieces of clothing from their loved ones, it was really interesting. Some people purged their home of the deceased's belongings whereas others kept them as a reminder. There was a gallery showing once where an artist collected garments from mourning families and I think they had them describe the significance of each piece. I only read about it but I would've liked to see it in person.

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    1. Yeah, it's kind of sad mourning is hidden from daily life today when it was openly displayed during a time of strict decorum and reserve.

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  2. You are very lucky to be able to go to this visit. I love all these photos. Thanks for posting them!

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    1. It's a joy posting these. Glad you liked them

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  3. This would have been amazing to see! I think I would like some jet jewellery one day! I really like the hair brooches but I don't think I would like one that belonged to a stranger. I think the customs of mourning can really help deal with grief, we are expected too often just to put it away and not talk about it!

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    1. Agreed. Also same about the hair brooches

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  4. Ooooh, I love this. I would die for one of those hair broaches! Last year I look Victorian literature studies and even did my final essay on spiritualism during the period - it's just so damn interesting!

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    1. You should do a post! I'd be interested in your findings

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  5. WOW! I would love to go see something like this. I die for that jet jewellery and the hair brooch, those are SO COOL!

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    1. I wish someone were doing affordable reproductions of this jewelry

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  6. Thank you so much for posting this. Derek and I can't make it the city for the exhibit due to buying our house. Your post makes me less bummed out :)

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    1. I don't know if it was worth an entire trip to see... the exhibit was pretty small. I pretty much photographed the whole thing in this post. Definitely wasn't curated and displayed with the same pizazz as the mcqueen, prada, or punk exhibits.

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  7. beautiful!! those were some beautiful patterns, and I didn´t realize they curled the hair in hair brooches!

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    1. I've seen some hair brooches on vintage sites and they weren't so nicely braided as these. these were probably from well-off families

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